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11/12/2010
08:59 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Verizon Relaunching Microsoft's Kin Devices?

Verizon Wireless halted sales of Microsoft's Kin devices mere weeks after launch. No one knows how much stock Verizon is sitting on, but the company may try to sell the phones this holiday season.

Verizon Wireless debuted Microsoft's Kin One and Kin Two devices last spring. The first wave of reviews were abysmal. I can't recall a single positive review of the device, and major tech sites such as Engadget, CNet and Gizmodo pretty much panned it as one of the worst devices to reach market in recent memory. My own experience with it was mixed at best. The hardware felt cheap, and the features were too limited.

Verizon Wireless didn't help with the smartphone pricing plans. Both phones required a $40 monthly voice plan and a $30 monthly data plan (Verizon contended that Kin users would chomp through bandwidth by uploading content). That's $70 per month, without text messaging plans. What do teens like to do? Text their little thumbs off, that's what. Unlimited messaging plans run another $20, pushing the monthly total to $90. That's a lot of money for a teenager (or a teen's parents) to pay.

Another legitimate issued face by Kin is that the Kin One and Two were not smartphones. Not even remotely. They offered a neat user interface with some cool social networking integration on the home screen, but the list of things the Kin One and Two couldn't do far outweighed the number of things the Kin could. Here's a short list of features not available on Kin: calendar, voice notes, voice commands, maps or navigation, calculator, no YouTube, no weather, no games, no apps. That's right, no applications of any kind whatsoever.

With bad reviews, bad pricing, and limited features, it is little wonder than the Kin flopped so badly. Less than two months after they came to market, Verizon pulled them from stores shelves.

Now, the devices appear to be making an unexpected comeback. According to Engadget, Verizon Wireless is prepared to offer them for sale again, though not with the same features as before.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Kin devices was the Loop, a constantly-updating online destination for all the Kins' data -- call logs, test messages, pictures, etc. Now, it appears that all data-centric aspects of the Kin have been yanked, which should lead to lower data plan pricing for the Kin -- and potentially better sales.

It's a shame that the Loop has been killed off, as it was the Kin's best feature. Can these handsets survive in the market without it?

It's possible that Verizon is banking on the generally warm press Microsoft has generated with its recent launch of Windows Phone 7 to help move the Kins. Verizon doesn't have any Windows Phone 7 devices to call its own. Is Verizon Wireless really brave enough to bring the Kin back to the market?

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